One of these annual punctuation marks is the making of elderflower cordial. Elderflowers are so abundant and freely available it’s a shame not to take advantage of nature’s offering. Now is the season for elderflower around here. It’s true it uses a relatively large amount of rightly frowned upon sugar, but the taste is so distinctive and delectable it’s worth doing. But a little goes a long way (it is consumed diluted) and, in any case, I find that recipes often recommend more sugar than is really necessary. (Remember: Silver Spoon, British - and for us locally - grown sugar beet; Tate and Lyle imported cane sugar).
Elderflower cordial is easy to make. But it still requires some effort. You have to notice when the elder bushes have come into flower and that the flowers are at the correct state of readiness. You have to go out and pick them in sufficient quantity, and then you have to go through the splashy process of production. It’s not the same as dropping a bottle in a shopping trolley. If you are thinking about it but don’t get round to making it, it’s like an unfinished sentence that can’t be completed until another yearly cycle has gone by.
I use a River Cottage recipe which seems to work well for me. I don’t add citric acid as the lemons and orange already contain quite a lot already. I've not had any problems.
- Makes about 2 litres
- About 25 elderflower heads
- Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150ml in total)
- 1kg sugar
- 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)
- Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects. Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest.
- Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.
- Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).
- Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.
Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks. Or use milk cartons and freeze.